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Librarians have been doing long-distance reference work for a very long time. Libraries have used telephones since sometime in the late 1800s or early 1900s and email since before I began my career in 1996. Even chat reference can hardly be called an "emerging reference service"--I first remember hearing about it at a Southern California Online Users Group conference a decade ago. Though reference via machines is not new, we seem to be at a pivotal time. There are currently so many possibilities for reaching out to our patrons that it can be hard to make sense of which options to offer.This is not made easier by a difficult fiscal environment, rapidly changing technology, and a plethora of other services that are also changing rapidly. What's a librarian to do? This column is meant to make some small sense of that question, both for those of us currently offering a wide range of distance reference services and those who wish they could do more.

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This document was originally published by the Idaho Library Association in The Idaho Librarian. Copyright restrictions may apply.